'New life' created from dead embryo stem cells

Life after death:Scientists have extracted live cells from dead embryos.


BY AIDAN RADNEDGE

STEM cell scientists are claiming a major breakthrough after extracting new life from,dead human embryos. Diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's could soon be treated without having to rely on live cells, researchers say.
They have discovered a way to create stem cells that they hope will appeal even to pro-life campaigners. One expert said the technique meant harvesting stem cells would now be as uncontroversial as donating organs.
But others urged caution - voicing uncertainty over how damaged such embryos might be and how to tell whether or not they were really dead. Stem cell science, involving the creation and destruction of living embryos, is being used to study diseases and create transplant tissue. Usually, the embryos come from fertility clinics after IVF treatment - but now scientist Miodrag Stojkovic believes dead or 'arrested' embryos can be used.
The latter are embryos that have stopped developing and whose cells have stopped dividing. Mr Stojkovic and his team tested 13 of these embryos, and found they could still be used to produce cells for kidneys, livers and skin. This could mean many more embryos are made available to scientists in stem cell research. Mr Stojkovic, who did the tests at Newcastle University's Centre for Stem Cell Biology, said: 'This should get round opposition to stem cell science because live embryos will no longer need to be used in all experiments.' But he added that live as well as dead cells should still be used.
Dr Donald Landry from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said: 'If the embryo is dead, the issue of personhood is resolved.
'Now you're really saying "Can we take live cells from dead embryos the way we take live organs from patients?"'
But Dr George Daley from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute warned: ' If there was something wrong with the embryo that made it arrest, isn't there something wrong with these cells?' The UK-based Comment on Reproductive Ethics cautiously welcomed the idea that there was 'no destruction of a living organism'.
But spokeswoman Josephine Quintaville added: 'There is the critical question of how you know when an embryo is dead or not.'
[The Metro Sep25,2006]


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How broken heart could mend itself

BY ANNE CAMPBELL

HEARTS damaged by disease have the capacity to heal themselves, scientists have discovered. Tests on mice revealed that proteins can guide 'repair' cells in the outer layer of the heart deeper inside a damaged organ to rejuvenate it by forming new blood vessels. The dramatic finding is in stark contrast to the long-held belief that the heart cannot repair itself. Experts described the research as 'important and exciting' and said it has enormous potential in the fight against Britain's biggest killer. The protein - thymosin b4 - is already known for its ability to reduce muscle cell loss following a heart attack, the experts tell the latest Nature magazine. But Dr Paul Riley, from University College London, said: 'Our research has shown that blood vessel regeneration is still possible in the adult heart. 'The protein could be injected into the bloodstream - or straight into the heart muscle in emergencies.' Prof Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, said: 'Finding out how this protein helps to heal the heart offers enormous potential in fighting heart disease, which kills more than 105,000 people in the UK every year. His council helped fund the research at the Institute of Child Health at Great Ormond Street Hospital Prof Jeremy Pearson. associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which also funded the team, said: 'These results are important and exciting.'


Heart op: Charlie Nash with her mother LorraineDoctors gave my Charlie heart

A YOUNG girl who used to sleep 20 hours a day and was too weak to walk up stairs is now running around her school playground after a heart transplant. A rare incurable heart condition left seven- year-old Charlie Nash, of Southsea, Hampshire, so ill she was virtually bed-ridden. After a six- hour op, Charlie was unconscious for eight days with her parents Lorraine and Ian at her bedside at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. Now she is attending school full time for the first time and her mother Lorraine is planning a trek in Peru to say thank you to the hospital.


Hearts have master cell

REVOLUTIONARY stem cell treatments for heart disease came closer yesterday with the discovery of a 'master' cell from which all the major parts of the heart are formed. The cells were found in the heart tissue of mouse embryos. Tests showed they developed to become cardiac cells, smooth muscle and endothelial cells that line blood vessels - the three main cell types found in the hearts of all mammals. It is hoped they can be used in the future to regenerate ailing hearts as well as assist in the creation of new drugs, said Dr Kenneth Chien of Boston, US. [Metro Nov27,2006]


A DEAD heart has been successfully rebuilt in the lab and made to beat again. US scientists took rat and pig hearts and stripped them of their cells, leaving nothing but blood vessels, valves and connective tissue. These remnants were then used as 'scaffolds' to which immature cells from newborn rat hearts, were added. The organ began to pump again shortly afterwar'ds. Scientists believe the development could see the end of conventional organ transplants. They hope to use patients' own stem cells to manufacture new hearts and the technique could theoretically be used to make organs of any kind, including kidneys, livers and lungs. Professor Don~s Taylor, who led the team at the University of Minnesota, said: 'The idea would be to~develop transplantable blood vessels or wbole organs that are made from your own cells.' [Metro 14/1/08]

Brown backs opt-out organ donor scheme

BY AIDAN RADNEDGE

DOCTORS could soon remove organs from patients who did not give their explicit consent while they were alive. Under new Government plans, unless their patients opted out of the register or their family objected, surgeons would be allowed to take their organs when they died. The policy was supported by Gordon Brown who said it could 'close the aching gap' between those awaiting surgery and organs. But Joyce Robins from Patient Concern said: 'They call it presumed consent but it is no consent at all. They are relying on ignorance and inertia to get what they want.' Between April 1, 2006, and March 31, 2007, 3,086 transplants were carried out from 1,495 donors, according to NHS organisation UK Transplant. During the same period, 949 lives were saved through a beart, lung, liver or combined transplant. A total of 2,137 people received a kidney, pancreas or a combined kidney and pancreas transplant. And a further 2,402 people got their sight back with a cornea transplant. But, by the end of March 2007, there were still 7,234 patients waiting for a transplant. About 1,000 transplant patients die each year while they are on the waiting list. The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, said: 'There is a lot of suppressed demand, with doctors not even referring patients to the list because there is no hope for them.' Sir Liam has backed a new system, similar to the opt-out one operated by Spain, which has seen the number of donors per head rise to the highest in the world. But Katherine Murphy, from the charity Patients Association, said: 'If people want to give the gift of life, that is their right, but it must be something that is a voluntary matter.'

Organ donation: The gift of life A bit of give and take
To Muhammad Umar, who objects to the Government's proposed 'opt-out' organ donation scheme (Metro, Tue), I have one question to ask you if you needed an organ to save your life would you accept one? Anyone who would be willing to accept an organ in order to save their own life should be willing to donate their own - it is as simple as that. My sister had an emergency liver transplant in January 2004. She is now living a happy and healthy life and is very lucky to be here. People should not be dying because organs are being wasted rather than transplanted. Had my sister not got a new liver, we would have donated as many of her organs as possible - how could we have prayed for a liver for her and not have been prepared to donate her organs had things turned out differently?
R Keen, Essex

I firmly believe in people's nghts and beliefs being respected when it comes to organ donation. If you have opted out for whatever reason and have informed your next of kin, then that is your choice. However, I can't help wondering how many people who choose not to donate organs would happily receive them if their health failed. You just can't have it both ways.
F Norris, West Sussex


In addition to John Hem's comments about not letting organs rot in the ground (Metro, Tue), the opt-out scheme would also help prevent people from poorer parts of the world being exploited into selling their organs. And to Mr Umar, I would put common sense before my religion in this case.
Prem Kumor Surrey

[Metro Jan16,2008]


Dear Ed,

With respect to your letters on organ transplants.The point appears to have been missed about the latent freedom which has been eroded.It is your right to decide the fate of your own body,much as you are presumed innocent in a court of law. The opt-out scheme changes the priority away from rights.You then have to claim your right back by opting out. To R Keen and those that think organ donation is some sort of right in itself - I would not give nor take any organs.Transplants will soon be a thing of the past anyway - as the Metro reported on Monday.

People have been listening too much to the monkeys and forgotten who the organ grinder is.I am in charge of my body - not the government. Do they think they can take my organs? Over my dead body.



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